To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
I hope you’re all having wonderful holidays. I was hoping to get 100% caught up on blogging my 2017 finishes… we’ll see. So far, I’ve done a lot of nothing productive on my days off work.
This is another quilt that I finished months ago—September to be precise. I finished everything but the binding at my guild’s fall retreat with the deadline of a baby shower looming the following weekend. Life had other plans, and we had to fly back to MO that weekend due to the funeral of my step-mother. I finished the binding a couple weeks later and still gifted it well before my friend’s baby girl came into the world. My friend seemed a little unwilling to share the quilt with her baby though (at least, when I gifted the quilt)—a true compliment!
I really love it when I stumble upon my motivation trifecta: a spark of design inspiration, a stack of fabric that calls to me, and a (somewhat loose, but looming) deadline. That happened here, and sparked off the creation of one of my favorite finishes yet.
The design inspiration came from a rug I found online. Something about the triangle designs and arrangement really caught my eye. The fabric inspiration came from a stack of fat quarters of the full range of colors in Cloud9’s Cirrus Solids collection. I think I’ve talked about their solids before, but I love, love, love them. They are yarn dyed (but with the same color weft and warp), and have much more depth than your typical solid. The rainbow of colors kept drawing my eye as it sat on my shelf, and seemed perfect for this project.
Finally, the reason to make the quilt: the upcoming birth of a good friend’s first baby, gender unknown. This friend is a constant source of inspiration to me in our quest to get more women involved in tech, and is artistic herself, so I was happy to have everything click in place to come up with a design and finished quilt that I’m proud of and that I think she’ll really dig (and hopefully her small new human will too).
At first, I had triangles that were drawn a little more free-form, with varying sizes of stripes, and planned to paper piece them. I was inspired by a trunk show that Amy Friend gave my guild, along with her book Improv Paper Piecing: A Modern Approach to Quilt Design. But, paper piecing—especially at the scale of these triangles—just doesn’t seem to click for me, so I fell back on basic piecing and simplified my triangles into pieces that were straight-forward to calculate (or, in the case of the angles, to put a strip of tape on a ruler for consistency).
I paired the Cloud9 solids with about two yards of Essex Yarn Dyed (Indigo, if I remember correctly). For her registry, my friend focused on greens and grays, so paired with the rainbow of solids, this read as a good neutral gray. On the back is a solid swath of green Minky that has a tile texture. I used Quilter’s Dream low-loft cotton batting, and bound it in a rainbow of scraps from the front, plus a little bit of a black and white print to get enough length.
I ended up with a spare triangle that I miscut, which inspired me to whip up a gift bag to go along with the quilt (or, as something for mom to carry around?). The lining is pieced of strips of a few of the colored solids, and the straps are also scrappy, making use of the fabric I had left of the fat quarters. I didn’t work from a pattern from the bag, just memory of making similar ones—it finished at around 14x16x2″, and I used Pellon 101 to interface the outer fabric.
From a technical standpoint, this isn’t my best quilt—some points are missing due to in-progress design decisions and bad math, and the binding just didn’t want to go on all that well, in part because the Minky had different pile lengths. But, it still ranks high on my list of favorite designs.
It’s been some kind of a year. I have four quilts that I’ve finished but not blogged about, starting with this one that was finished back at a quilting retreat in May. I never did get around to getting more photos of it before giving it to my mother-in-law just prior to her starting chemotherapy in July. I’m hoping to catch up on posting the others between now and the end of the year. We’ll see!
Once upon a time, I was involved with two different monthly sampler quilts at the same time. Then I moved halfway through the year and this one ended up with five finished blocks in a box, one unfinished block kit, and a no urge to piece them into a top. This one especially didn’t call to me—it’s really not my style at all, and no amount of sketching could change my apathy (to be blunt). But, I’ve been on a mission to clean out my old works in progress, and realized at the guild retreat last fall that I could go super simple with the layout, try a new technique (setting blocks on point), and end up with a reasonably-sized quilt with minimal effort. So, armed with six 12″ squares and three yards of a dark blue tonal fabric, I went to work.
Setting blocks on-point isn’t that difficult, it just requires a few 4-letter words—one of which is math. The most important number is the square root of 2 (√2, or 1.414), followed closely by remembering that you add 7/8″ to a square for triangle seam allowances (think half-square triangles).
The other thing to consider is your fabric’s grain and bias. The reason we cut corner triangles as half square triangles, but side or setting triangles as quarter-square triangles is so that the outer edge is always on-grain, which makes those edges less likely to warp as we add borders or binding. (A secondary reason is to keep directional prints facing the right way.) A good tip when sewing your setting and corner triangles to your blocks is to always have the bias edge on the bottom, touching the feed dogs. That way the presser foot doesn’t stretch the bias edge (less of an issue for sewing machine brands with even feed feet or if piecing with a walking foot). That said, I broke the rules for a couple setting squares to conserve fabric (quarter-square triangles eat up fabric!) as I feel comfortable working with the bias while piecing borders and my fabric was non-directional. Do what works for you.
I talked about four of the blocks back in 2013. The other two are “True Blue” and “The Windmill” (which actually contains five windmills). I added a 6″ border on all sides to bring the size up to 46″x63″.
While digging through my reproduction fabrics scrap box for other scraps, I realized I actually had yardage stored in the box! So, the backing of the quilt is made from the remaining blue tonal, a half yard of a Windham repro, and the rest of a dark red solid (also used for binding). I used Quilter’s Dream Wool batting because I had a package on hand and to see how I like it for possible future projects (I was not a fan of quilting it, but it does make for a nice quilt).
It’s quilted in a mix of a modified Baptist Fan pattern and echoed scallops using a navy Aurifil 50wt. While I liked how the fans looked, I honestly got really bored quilting them, so switched to the much faster scallops. It’s machine bound in a solid with a little scrap of piecing leftover from a block. I’m happy to have another old work in progress finished!
Special thanks to Trista for holding the quilt, and Basin Harbor Club for the awesome location. The view was much better than my photography skills.
I’ve thought about making a hexagon quilt for years now. I even bought the Hex-n-More ruler two years ago to get started, but then couldn’t come up with the right project at the right time. However, the arrival of our friends’ twin babies and a stack of fat quarters from Birch Fabric’s Bear Camp (plus a few other fabrics thrown in) gave me the perfect excuse to make two hexie quilts—although I settled on half hexies to take into account faster piecing (the babies came quite early!) and cutting layout efficiency.
These 42″ x 54″ quilts use the 8″ half hexie size of the Hex-n-More ruler and were simple to piece row by row. I did a rough layout in Illustrator to try to spread the colors around somewhat evenly (also between the two quilts), although the final products are a little less random than planned—I didn’t do a good job of spreading around the prints, just the colors.
I mixed in a glittery gray, magenta shot cotton, and lavender Cotton+Steel polka cats into one quilt, then used the warmer red and orange Bear Camp prints paired with a solid orange (Cloud9?) in the other to make distinct, but similar, quilts for the brother and sister pair. A cluster of three solid hexies was the perfect background for machine embroidering their initials on the quilt. I originally planned to do a three-letter monogram, but couldn’t figure out how to place letters for proper readability in the cluster, so went with just first and last initial in the center.
The quilts are both backed with a gray cuddle fabric, and quilted by echoing the hexie outlines. I used coordinating, but not precisely matching thread for the quilting, as it was already on my shelf in the right quantity. The magenta version was a nightmare—I tried three different threads and a variety of needles and still ended up with skipped stitches that I can’t figure out (other projects have gone fine in the mean time). I had to rip out so many lines of stitching. I ended up leaving in a few lines of magenta that had fewer skipped stitches (and sewed a line of pink next to them), because I was at my wits’ end with ripping. Warm & Plush batting is in between (a higher-loft version of Warm & Natural), to make for very cuddly quilts.
This is the first time I’ve ever used Birch Fabrics’ fabric. They’re an organic cotton provider, but none of my local shops carry them. I grabbed the bundle from Massdrop (mixed feelings) late last year, knowing that I had a few baby quilts to make in the coming year. Overall, they’re a decent substrate to work with, but fair warning: they have very large (sometimes >1.5″!) selvages.
They’re both finished off with a new label style I made. I dropped the QR code, and left room to one side to add a personal note. I took photos prior to writing in a quick note for each baby.
I finished these up in April, but just recently had the chance to deliver them. Stay tuned for one more recent finish coming up shortly.
Spring has been a whirlwind so far. I am terribly behind on blogging about my finished projects. I have three completed quilts (two that are waiting to be delivered, the other finished this weekend at my guild’s spring retreat). This has been finished for a couple of months!
It started with a challenge of colors. Five of them, four greens, one yellow. Of course, none are fashionable; the greens are all slightly different from the famed 2017 Pantone Color of the Year, the yellow a bit too off-trend. Then there’s a challenge of size. 18″ square. Constraints like this are helpful to me when it comes to challenges.
The lacking part was inspiration, until I scrolled through Instagram and came upon this lovely bit of mixed-media art by @aykceramics and @aleksandrazee.
Which, of course, introduced another challenge as said design doesn’t translate well into squares and blocks.
But through y-seams and trial and error, it came together.
The fabrics weren’t perfect. If I were making this again, I’d make sure the two lighter greens had slightly more contrast, and the darkest be a little more vibrant. I finally dug out my package of Quilter’s Dream Orient batting (a blend of cotton, bamboo, silk, and tencel) that I’ve had for years, thinking this was the right project to use it for. I quilted it with a perfectly matching Coats & Clark variegated green 30wt that came in a goody bag at some point (kismet). I like how the thread weight helps highlight the design lines, even as it blends in and out.
I finished it with facing instead of binding, incorporating a hanging sleeve into the finish. My corners aren’t perfect, but the green and yellow make me dream of daffodils popping up in this very slow-to-start spring we’re having in Vermont.
This and those of my guild mates will be on display at VQF in June. It’s a very eclectic mix of minis.
Kona Corn Yellow
In an effort to create tools for education and promotion of modern quilting, my guild started a challenge series (of sorts) a while back that we call “Make it Modern”. Members are encouraged to take a traditional block, make it up in an 18″ quilted square, then make a second one “modern”. The goal is to explore some of the aesthetic differences that exist between modern and more traditional quilting when it comes to fabric selection, quilting, and styling of a block. We have a collection of the blocks now that we are able to take to demonstrations and talks, as well as providing a quick programming bit at our meetings when a member presents their block pair.
After giving and organizing a few talks for local traditional guilds about modern quilting, I noticed that we were missing a good example of pixelation, which has been a trend in modern quilting. Since I’d signed up (many months in advance) to do a Churn Dash block, I decided to play around in Illustrator to see if I could come up with something that evoked the look of the traditional block, but allowed for me to piece ‘pixels’ that weren’t too incredibly small for an 18″ mini.
The traditional churn dash is straightforward—four half square triangles, a center square, and side rectangles, made from fabric I purchased early in my quilting journey. The more traditional text print is a great foil to the more modern, low-volume math print used in the other block. I stitched in the ditch to quilt it, because I didn’t feel like FMQ at the time for something more advanced.
The super technical details modern details: I drew a vector churn dash, shrank it to 0.15″, rasterized it, then blew it back up to 18″. I played around with different sizes prior to rasterizing, but this was the best combination of “still looks like a churn dash if you squint” and “has big enough pieces (1.5″) that I won’t hate making it” I found.
The more quilty modern details: after I had my design, I broke it up into blocks that let me piece as few 1.5″ squares together as possible (but, I was winging it, so there could be even more efficiencies I didn’t think of). I used a low-volume white math/text print from the stash as background, and two greens (Kona Peapod and Kona Limelight) that are just a little different so that you really get the pixelated blend from far away (that is, the farther away you are, the more it looks like it’s a normal (perhaps fuzzy) churn dash). I quilted it in geometric spirals, starting with a churn dash shape as a nod to the original block.
And here’s what it looks like once we take photos and drop it in a template to publish on Instagram and Facebook for the guild. I love the way this project has encouraged me to think about the different ways modern quilting can be expressed, and it’s been amazing to see the creativity of my fellow guild members in how they approach their own make it modern blocks.
It’s becoming quite the thing for me to start off the year with a baby quilt for friends or family. This year’s is incredibly hard for me to let go of as it’s one of my favorite quilts to date, but alas, it’ll look cuter with a newborn on it.
I decided to do a straight-forward representation of the different shapes and their arrangement in the photograph, but wanted to inject color and pattern to make it more kid-friendly. Since the quilt is for the daughter of one of my instructors and his wife (and fellow student), I wanted to incorporate a subtle (or not subtle) nod to our discipline into the design. Thus, the colors of the shapes are the eight colors of belts in our ranking system (in no particular order). The prints are mostly small-scale, pulled from fabric I already had. I can’t get over the cute little pandas in the white stripe.
Piecing this really pushed my skills in a way I’ve shied away from in the past. I had a few rough measurements, but did a lot of the piecing improv. The central angle was nerve-wracking, but I managed it with no ripping involved, mostly by using partial seams and a lot of patience.
The back of the quilt is pieced from the super cute cat polkadots from Cotton+Steel and a strip of the colors from the front to give me the length needed. The quilt was just narrow enough to use the width of fabric, which limited the piecing I needed to do. The batting is Warm & Natural, as I had a crib-sized package laying around.
I also approached the quilting improvisationally, doing each section at a time with whatever spoke to me. Most of it was done with a walking foot, but the green section was free-motion quilted. There’re straight lines, loops, orange peels, zig-zags, serpentine stitches, and more. Each section was done in matching thread. The red binding echoes the belts of our experienced black belts in addition to providing a contrasting frame.
I hadn’t yet ordered new labels for the year with the appropriate year and qr code on them, so I used just the logo and name section from an old leftover. I’m beginning to think it’s time for something new, though I haven’t yet decided what I want to do going forward. For now, this one’s got the basics, and has already been delivered when our newest (just a few days-old) white belt made a surprise visit to say hello to last week’s class.
When I sat down to write this, it struck me that my opening could be much the same as last year’s. Again, we traveled quite a bit. Again, I changed roles at work (back into development, still team leadership). But, I also spent weeks on end not entering my studio space, not sewing, not dreaming up projects. I posted the fewest updates here since I started keeping this blog in 2009. So, this will be a pretty minimal roundup for the year.
I was surprised to realize that I finished one more quilt this year than last. The finishes fell evenly into three categories: baby quilt gifts, donations to my guild’s community quilt drive, and ones I kept.
Every quilt I finished this year was either a pre-existing work in progress or made from stash. I’m happy to see my backlog of started projects shrink a little more. Despite the stash projects, my collection of fabric actually increased exponentially this year (more on that later), but it was nice to use up some of the older bits.
Despite not blogging, I did more to show my work in real life than I have in past years.
The F-word hung at the Vermont Quilt Fest. I don’t think it was very well received, but one of the judges gave me some insightful feedback, so it was a satisfying experience.
Human hung at the Squam Modern Quilt Show hosted by the Cambridge MQG and Gather Here, as well as in a special exhibit by the Vermont MQG at the Champlain Valley Quilt Guild’s show this year (an exhibit I also organized, which ate up a chunk of time).
After four years of traveling the country (and to Canada), my 1812 Challenge Quilt finally came home this summer.
Samplers, Meetups, Exchanges
I signed up for the Mighty Lucky Quilting Challenges this year, but only completed two of the challenges. January’s bias tape challenge resulted in a mini art quilt, and I made a pillow of quilted words as a result of June’s challenge.
I find myself hesitant to make any resolutions for 2017, but if I were to do so, it’d be as simple as “spend more time creating.”
As the year draws to a close, two articles I read this year have really stuck with me and will likely play a role in how I look at things in the coming year. In the first (from 2014), Cheryl Arkison talks about why she doesn’t limit the number of projects she currently has “under construction.” As someone who spent the previous three years making a concerted effort to reduce the number of works in progress I have, it may seem odd that in many ways I agree with her. But as she discusses in the section about creative challenges, I do think there can be value in having a variety of projects to work on. A lot of my focus has been on clearing out projects that never really called to me in the first place, but that I didn’t want to abandon. What is left is a collection of very different ideas that are simply waiting for me to be in the right mood to explore.
The other was Abby Glassenberg’s article about how language matters and the often exclusionary nature of how we talk about quilting. While I think the entire article is spot on, the section at the end about fabric stashes struck a particular chord. I purchased over 60 yards (yes, really! I couldn’t believe it either) of fabric this year. Some was to supplement what I already had to finish in-progress projects, but much of it was taking advantage of sales two local shops were running (one was moving, the other closing). Mere days before the article came out, I made one of those throwaway small-talk jokes to the fabric store clerk at checkout about my husband’s likely horror of such a large purchase and maybe I should sneak it inside. It was also mostly a lie, because he doesn’t really care and I felt no guilt (also: I’m a terribly awkward person in conversation most days, especially for small talk). It was one of those things we say to act like everyone else. Just like all the brainless micro aggressions that continue to feed racism, sexism, ageism, all the other -isms. In other words, this is the year that I managed to turn buying fabric into a great philosophical event for myself.
That’s all a really long way of obliquely saying that in 2017 you should expect more ‘statement’ projects (a lá F-word, Human), and more stash projects (fabric palette projects?).
A word of advice: when heading to retreats, give yourself plenty of time to pack and consider projects. I waited until the last minute and only had some half-baked ideas. One of those was finishing up my 2013 Saturday Sampler projects in some way. I considered how to do so before leaving for the retreat, but rather than sketching something out, I just wrote down a few measurements and required materials, then tossed the box containing the finished blocks in with everything else I was taking. That’s the obscure way of saying that this quilt is nothing like what I’d planned, but hey, it’s a finished project!
Cotton’s Etc. in Wampsville, NY ran this sampler back in 2013. I only attended for four months before we moved to VT, so I wasn’t working with much for this quilt. I went to the retreat with the four completed 12″ blocks, a half-yard of supposedly matching white, and low-loft cotton batting pieced together from scraps.
On the Saturday of the retreat, we took a quick road trip to a local store running a moving sale, and picked up most of the rest of what I’d need—a yard for borders that coordinated pretty well, and 1.5 yds of lovely cuddle backing. The gray binding came from my stash at home.
I realized after I pieced the top together that my notes mentioned putting all four blocks in a row with lots of negative space to quilt that would read a lot more modern. Oh well. Instead, I put together a very basic, traditional sashed and bordered layout to turn the blocks into a 44″ square quilt. I’ve no current plans for it, but it’ll likely be a baby gift or charity donation sometime in the near future.
I put the quilt sandwich together at the retreat, then brought it home to quilt. I should have redone the basting before starting to quilt, as I cut corners at the retreat since I didn’t have a big space to secure the backing and batting to. I managed quilt it without too many tucks or bubbles, but it’s not my best work. The quilting is all straight-line with a mix of 40wt Gutermann (in the blocks) and 28wt Aurifil (borders and sashing). Some of the bobbin is a white 40wt poly Gutermann, and possibly even a bobbin-weight white cotton because I was scrounging around for the last bobbins and spools of white thread I had to use on this. I tried to do a wider-than-normal binding, but messed up the corners. Then, I did my worst machine binding attempt in recent history (possibly ever), resulting in an extra row of stitching all around.
The blocks are Snails Trail, Rolling 9-Patch, Rope & Anchor, and Hummingbird. The sampler was the ‘modern’ color-way option from the shop—which really just meant bright fabrics and a solid background as opposed to a country-ish food-themed fabric (if I recall correctly). In the intervening 3.5 years, I can’t remember what made me do it, but I made the green block with the back side of the fabric up, so it’s a little less vibrant than the others. I wish I knew why. I’m also not happy with the block placement—there are two fabric patterns, and I wish I’d alternated them rather than put them next to each other. Additionally, the whites are off between the blocks and sashing, which is doubly annoying since I purchased that specifically from them as coming from the same bolt of fabric.
In all, it’s not the best example of my skills, but I think that sometimes that’s okay. Regardless, it’s a candy-sweet quilt that I hope someone will love to cuddle under.
At my guild’s quilt retreat last month, a project I’ve been working on for six years (sort of) finally started really coming together. I’ve tried to save 2.5″ squares of the fabric I use in my quilts to make some sort of meta-quilt patchwork. Last year, I finally decided on how to piece the patchwork squares together and made the first eight, and I’ve kept up with my quilt finishes ever since, so I had the latest 12. The 24 in between were another story.
I dragged my entire tub of scrap fabric to the retreat with one goal: to sort it out and find the scraps for those other blocks (oh, and sort all the scraps by color [done], and maybe make scrap bins [haha, no]). I spent most of a day on the project before deciding I needed a break, and made a lot of progress. There are only nine blocks left, and I have most of those scraps set aside ready for piecing. The solid blocks signify a few unique non-cotton-patchwork quilts—t-shirtquilts and a chenille whole-cloth one. A few 2.5” squares had to be pieced together from even smaller pieces.
I thought I’d share the progress now. After piecing the different blocks together, I decided to put the rows together in a quilt-as-you-go method, so I basted my batting and backing together and started sewing the rows available when I could. The rest of the blocks are just pinned on for show and tell.
I’m not sure how I’m going to quilt this. Some days, I think I should quilt each square similar to how I quilted that quilt, since quilting can make such a difference in the final product. Other days, I think I’d like the fabric and project to stand on its own, and say stitching in the ditch is the right choice. Maybe I’ll add something via quilting or embroidery to mark the different years.
I think I can squeeze in one more row before quilting and binding (once I piece the rest of the rows together), then I’ll start a second panel. If I eventually finish that (another 48 quilts!), I’ll sew the two finished panels together side-by-side and start another. It’ll truly be a life-long project, but I love looking back and remembering each quilt.
Things have been quiet here. Everything in non-sewing life caused me to retreat from sewing for a solid two months, somehow. So, with my guild’s first ever retreat quickly approaching (this past weekend), I needed to get my sewing mojo back. The guild provided the perfect opportunity: a few mug rugs to give to women from the larger traditional guild in the area who provided space and support during their semi-annual retreat for us to do our own thing. I managed to pull three together in the week before the retreat.
#1: A scattering of hexies
I had a mini charm pack promo pack (~10 2.5″ squares?) from Windham sitting on my shelf, and was inspired by some of the hexie mini quilts that have been going around. I used plain gray fabric to turn out hexies, stuck them on to a background with spray baste, then used the quilting to secure them. The binding was leftover from a previous project. It’s a strange color scheme, but I thought it worked out well. I wish I’d ripped and fixed the top right corner, though.
#2: Masochist Shaman
Last winter, I used a bunch of 1/2″ off-cuts of Shaman by Parson Gray as leaders and enders and ended up with a strip of fabric. I’m not sure what possessed me to do something that fiddly, and had no plans for the finished piece. I cut into that, pieced it into some gray, and ended up with an interesting mug rug. I still have a few more cut strips from it, so there may be a matching one in the future. It didn’t take long to matchstick quilt something this small. I bound it with mostly matching leftovers from another project.
#3: The running out of time
I needed one more to meet my pledge and was lacking inspiration. I challenged myself to just pick some scraps within 2 minutes and start sewing. So, I grabbed three more of the Windham charms, leafed through a stack of orphaned full-sized ones for one that matched, and happened upon a scrap of solid that was the perfect compliment. It worked out surprisingly well. Quilting it was another matter, so again, I just started sewing and it worked out okay. I had a 2.5″ strip of green that made a great frame as binding.
For some reason, while machine binding the other two went very well, this one missed three of the corners. So, time being limited, I decided to topstitch all the way around in the binding to secure the corners on the back. Shh—that’s what we call a design decision, not an accident. 😉
So, those were my mug rugs. I didn’t actually complete anything at the retreat, but I made a dent in a couple of projects, so I should be posting about those soon. First, I have to go back to real life, which includes another retreat (or leadership summit, if you prefer) this week and a extra few vacation days where Carl will join me down in Austin, TX. Life never stops!